MSI X58 Pro-E - A Mainstream Intel X58?


The MSI X58 Pro-E

The MSI X58 Pro-E

Despite a pricing that's lower than many of its competitors, the MSI X58 Pro-E does not lack any essential features. In fact, while we were expecting some compromises to be made, that didn't seem to be the case, with this ATX board even supporting 3-way SLI or CrossFireX.

The number of SATA and DIMM slots is also comparable with several higher-end X58 motherboards and it even comes with a very convenient eSATA port at the rear I/O panel. The memory support for up to 24GB of DDR3-1600 is also decent, albeit not as high in terms of memory speed ratios as some enthusiast oriented boards. An extra JMicron JMB363 controller chip adds IDE/PATA functionality for up to two devices and a single SATA port in addition to those offered by the Intel ICH10R 'Southbridge' chip.

A five-phase power design for the CPU on this MSI motherboard testifies to its more modest, mainstream goal. The passive heatsinks here are also two distinct units, unlike some designs which link them via heat pipes.

Six full rows of DIMM slots, color coordinated for triple channel memory kits. A possible grouse for those using memory modules with larger, protruding heat spreaders or coolers is the proximity of the ATX power connector to one of the DIMM slots. Other than that, we were surprised not to find MSI compromising the quantity of DIMM slots.

The only possible oversight is probably the lack of a floppy controller but we doubt most users would find that too much of an issue nowadays. This is especially so when MSI's newer motherboards including the X58 Pro-E comes with its BIOS flash utility integrated in the BIOS. Known as M-Flash, we feel that it removes the main need for a floppy for enthusiasts.

Audio support is courtesy of a Realtek ALC889 CODEC that's a common option for onboard HD audio on the better motherboards and you'll find an optical S/PDIF output at the rear panel. Obviously, it would be too much to expect dual Gigabit Ethernet controllers on motherboards of this price category and the MSI X58 Pro-E only has one, again it's from Realtek (but fortunately it uses the PCIe interface instead of the older PCI). Frankly, this is not an issue as we're usually satisfied with just one port as with most mainstream users.

Thanks to the ICH10R chip onboard, there are six SATA 3.0Gbps ports here, aligned at right angles to the board. The seventh (blue) SATA port and the rear eSATA port are from the JMicron JMB363 controller. So too is the support for IDE/PATA devices.

There are no lack of expansion slots on this motherboard, with three PCIe graphics slots supporting NVIDIA SLI and ATI CrossFireX. Add to that two PCIe x1 and two PCI slots and it's a crowded board.

MSI has squeezed quite the full complement of expansion slots on this board, with the result that the slots can be quite close to each other. Using dual-slot graphics cards on all the three PCIe x16 slots would effectively fill up all the available slots but that's expected.

Like we said, it's a crowded board and often, we doubt if some of these slots would actually see any use. For instance, this PCIe x1 slot here is so close to the heatsink.

Onboard switches are sidelined to the edge of the motherboard, with MSI adding an overclocking jumper/switch to toggle a few preset base clock settings.

Finally, like we have observed from MSI's recent motherboards, the layout of its boards has been very well taken care of and the X58 Pro-E is no different. Connectors and ports are aligned facing outwards at the edge of the board and details like having onboard switches for power, reset and Clear CMOS are convenient for users.

Strangely, MSI has added a hardware switch for setting the base clock, which is actually targeted at overclockers to quickly scale up. However, since this switch can only set certain preset frequencies, we have to wonder what's the point. After all, using the BIOS to change the base clock is the common practice now and we don't quite see how going back to traditional hardware jumpers or switches would help users.